By Ros Satar, in Stuttgart
- Johanna Konta [6/WC] def. Naomi Osaka [Q] 7-6(5) 3-6 6-1
- Faces Anastasija Sevastova next – H2H: Konta leads 2-1
STUTTGART, GERMANY – British No. 1 Johanna Konta looked to have found her clay-feet with a tough fought win over qualifier Naomi Osaka.
Johanna Konta [6/WC] def. Naomi Osaka [Q] 7-6(5) 3-6 6-1
It was a typically gritty performance from the British No. 1 as she found a way past one of the tour’s rising stars, Naomi Osaka. Johanna Konta recorded her first main draw win, on a surface that has not always been quite as obliging to the Brit as hard and grass courts. The first set was a tight and competitive affair. It was actually the teenager who struck first, taking advantage of an uncharacteristically loose game from Konta.
As we have come to expect, her steely determination saw an immediate break back and again no quarter was given by the pair, as they battled up to the first tie-break. This time Konta took the initiative, and rallied after losing the mini-break as she swiftly built up three set points. Osaka was not done, and saved two before the first set when the way of the Brit.
It had been a tough week already for Osaka. She had come through qualifying where she had to come from a set down in her first two matches. She took a medical time-out at the end of the first set, treated off-site for what looked like an abdominal strain.
During a coaching call in the second set, her coach David Taylor was heard urging her to retire if the pain was too unbearable, and to look at the bigger picture of other tournaments, but to the teenager’s credit she was the aggressor in the second set. She struck back immediately after Konta broke her early in the second set, and then once more at the tail end before serving it out quite convincingly.
Yet the injury took its toll far more in the decider – Konta broke decisively, twice in quick succession to advance in the Stuttgart main draw for the first time.
She told reporters: “I think I did a reasonably good job the whole match. I don’t think I played my best level but I think I adapted as quickly and as best possible compared how much time I had here and also the clay court player she is, she doesn’t give you much rhythm.
“I think she was struggling with something, she worked with the physio and I think I noticed in the third set as well. But most importantly I just focussed on myself, focussed on just trying to get as many points under my belt and really just stick to my game plan.”
Konta v Anastasija Sevastova – H2H: Konta leads 2-1
Up next is a solid clay courter in Anastasija Sevastova, who had actually been watching the match earlier, having defeated Sam Stosur earlier. With Konta having had the upper hand in the first match at the Australian Open qualifying rounds four years ago, their next meeting was a lot more impactful.
Konta’s progression through the ranks can be dated back to a great fourth round run back in the autumn of 2015 and while expectations in 2016 were high, she was halted at the same stage by the Latvian, who edged her in two tight straight sets.
A handy level of revenge was sought with a convincing win for the Brit in Beijing, on her way to her first Premier final, but Konta was quick to play down her expectations on this surface.
She said: “I think although the score might have been a little more one-sided in Beijing every match we played has been quite tough. She’s a good player. She really doesn’t have too many holes in her game either. So, I think she’s quite solid. I’ll be looking forward to it. It’s another challenge for me on this surface. I’m looking to gain as much experience on the clay as possible this season. So, I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Sevastova certainly has the tools to upset the No. 6 seed, especially on this surface. Konta hardly impressed on the surface this year, but if very much of the mind-set that this is a work in progress to complement her entire game, and given her focus and results, we ought to expect a tight one, but the edge maybe is with the Latvian being just a little more comfortable (if a little more volatile, mentally) on this surface.
Prediction: Sevastova in three sets.
Konta and Sevastova are scheduled on Centre Court, not before 1:30pm (12:30pm BST).
Photos Credit: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
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